I was praying the other day while I was alone in the car, driving on one of the endless, self-serving errands that afflict me as a contemporary American, when the word trajectory started ringing in my head.
Each of us is like a bullet shot from a gun, hurtling toward destiny, impact certain. Our lives are the brief interval between leaving the barrel and colliding with the target.
Unfortunately, that target is known for all of us: eternal death and separation from God.
Knowing Jesus Christ is supposed to change that trajectory. The target becomes an entirely different one, with the arc of aim wildly out of line with the original bullseye. The Gospel pulls on us to create a physically impossible shot that bends us toward the real intentions of life and keeps us from hitting the wrong target. No bullet is smart enough to pull this off on its own. Only a radical, external intervention can make it happen.
Which is why it is so distressing that for so many of us the path of our flight seems unaltered by our encounter with the Lord. Perhaps we are deflected a fraction of degree by our church attendance, small group Bible studies, quiet times, general niceties, and groupthink chatter that passes for righteous ire concerning “those” people, whoever they may be. The outcome remains the same though: We collide with the wrong target.
Isn’t an encounter with Jesus supposed to radically alter lives? Why then is it that we hurtle on as if nothing happened?
The frustrated lament of the disciples was that they had left everything to follow Jesus and yet they still seemed to be aimed at the wrong target. If this is their lament, how can we who say that we are in Him not identify with it? Of course the Lord reassures them that their reward is great because of what they have given up, because their trajectory is different for knowing Him. And so they were comforted.
Can we enjoy the same sense of comfort at Jesus’ words when we have given up so little? When our trajectories differ imperceptibly from those of the people around us who are headed for the wrong target? Shouldn’t we instead be concerned that our lack of leaving everything is apparent in our unchanged trajectory?